To be a disciple of Jesus means first of all “to deny yourself”, which doesn’t mean to negate oneself, to despise that which makes us unique, nor to undermine our self-esteem. Jesus simply wants to tell us: stop thinking only of yourself, don’t always put yourself first, and don’t let your selfish interests prevail, because with that you deprive yourself of the joy of loving, you make living together more complicated, and you become less human.
“To deny yourself means to forget yourself in order to build your life in the light of Christ; it means freeing ourselves to love God with all our heart.” @silviojbaez #disciplesTweet
To be a disciple of Jesus means to take up the cross and follow him. The cross isn’t synonymous with suffering, it means extreme love, a limitless love like Jesus has, that doesn’t break in the face of misunderstanding or rejection.
The price of all authentic and faithful love is the cross.
Taking up the cross requires purifying our hearts of all selfish ambition and petty projects and always being ready to sacrifice ourselves for the common good. To take up the cross involves lowering ourselves to the world of the poor and suffering in order to be on their side, to take on their anguish, and to give them back the dignity and hope that God wants for them. “Take up your cross” above all means to assume the almost always painful consequences of the fight to eliminate the suffering of the crucified members of society.
From Peter’s perspective, all this may seem foolish and incomprehensible. However, for those of us who believe in Jesus the way of the cross is not a path of failure or defeat. On the contrary: “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 16:25).
If we are obsessed with ourselves, we’ll end up having a sterile and mediocre life and we’ll end up losing it; on the other hand, whoever gives his life generously and spends it every day with love following Jesus, offering up his life as Jesus did and living for what he lived, will find life in all its fullness.
Today’s Gospel ends with this statement: “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done” (Mt 16:27). To follow Jesus on the way of the cross is to participate even now, day by day, in his own glorious life, until he himself introduces us one day, forever, into the kingdom of his Father.
Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Managua
Homily, 30 August 2020 (excerpts)